AG: Sandusky a predator; defense aims at accusers
BELLEFONTE, Pennsylvania (AP) — The lead prosecutor called Jerry Sandusky a serial predator in opening trial statements Monday, while a defense lawyer said the young men accusing the former Penn State assistant football coach of sexual abuse had a financial interest in the outcome.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Joseph McGettigan III opened Sandusky’s highly anticipated trial Monday by telling jurors that the 68-year-old retired coach was a pedophile who took advantage of fatherless children or those with unstable home lives and sexually abused them for years.
Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts that he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years, allegations he has denied. His arrest and the fallout shook one of the most storied U.S. sports program, leading to departures of longtime football coach Joe Paterno and the university president.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
McGettigan, apologizing in advance for what he said would be disturbing and graphic testimony, said he would prove that the abuse included oral and anal sex involving boys Sandusky met through a children’s charity and that it took place “not over days, not over weeks, not even over months, but in some cases over years.”
Sandusky’s lawyer, Joe Amendola, said the young men who would take the stand are accusers, not victims. He said jurors may find it odd that Sandusky acknowledged showering with children, but that it was innocuous, and part of Sandusky’s upbringing.
“In Jerry’s culture, growing up in his generation, where he grew up, he’s going to tell you it was routine for individuals to get showers together,” Amendola said. “I suspect for those of you who might have been in athletics, it’s routine.”
McGettigan said prosecutors will show a pattern in which Sandusky groomed boys, gave them gifts and then abused them, sometimes in the Penn State football team’s on-campus facilities.
McGettigan called The Second Mile, the children’s charity Sandusky established in 1977, the “perfect environment for the predatory pedophile” and his way to get close to his victims.
The Second Mile and Penn State aren’t on trial, McGettigan told jurors, many of whom have ties to the university.
“This defendant, for what he did, his acts, he is on trial,” McGettigan said.
Among the items seized by investigators was a list of Second Mile participants whose names were marked with asterisks — including some of those expected to testify — that included notations about what they looked like and whether they lived with their parents, McGettigan said.
Six of the alleged victims had no father in their lives, McGettigan said.
“They are real people with real experience,” McGettigan said. “You will know they were violated.”
The first man to testify will detail how Sandusky plied him with gifts and trips and coerced him into sexual contact, including dozens of liaisons in a sauna, McGettigan said.
The prosecutor said the same man would tell the jury about how Dottie Sandusky inadvertently interrupted an encounter in a San Antonio hotel after Sandusky brought the youth with him to Sandusky’s final game as a Penn State coach in December 1999. Sandusky coerced him into engaging in oral sex in a hotel room bathroom, but was interrupted when the coach’s wife entered the hotel room, McGettigan said.
Dottie Sandusky arrived in the courtroom Monday, but left when the judge sequestered witnesses.
The man, now 28, will be the oldest of the alleged victims to testify, said McGettigan.
Sandusky, in a grey-green suit, hunched slightly in his seat at the defense table as Judge John Cleland outlined the charges to the jurors. He looked pale and blinked a lot, then he looked away after McGettigan referenced an alleged 2001 attack in a Penn State shower. During Amendola’s opening statement, he watched intently.
Amendola said the defense will argue that Mike McQueary, the football team assistant who reported seeing Sandusky naked in a shower in 2001, was mistaken about what he saw.
“We don’t think Michael McQueary lied,” Amendola told jurors. “Are you surprised? We don’t think that he lied. What we think is that he saw something and made assumptions.”
Cleland opted not to sequester the jury, saying he trusted the panel to avoid reading or watching reports about the case.
Many of the alleged victims are expected to take the stand for the prosecution, and their credibility in jurors’ eyes could prove to be the decisive factor in determining the verdict.
Slade McLaughlin, the attorney for the teen identified in the grand jury report as Victim 1, said he expects his client to testify Monday or Tuesday.
“He’s in good spirits, very calm, very relaxed,” McLaughlin said as he waited for a seat inside the courtroom.
Snowboards, hockey sticks and other items described in a grand jury report as gifts lavished on one of the victims were carried into the courthouse before the start of the morning session.
Amendola told jurors that at least six of the alleged victims have civil lawyers, including several in the courtroom gallery on Monday.
“It is rare, rare, absolutely, totally unusual for an alleged victim to have an attorney, aside from the commonwealth, representing them,” Amendola said.
He said some maintained contact with Sandusky years after the alleged sexual abuse.
“These young men had a financial interest in this case and pursuing this case,” Amendola said.
Mindful of protecting the privacy of witnesses, officials set up a tent at the rear of the courthouse while the doors were covered to obscure views of the witness-holding areas.
Two Penn State administrators are awaiting trial on charges they failed to properly report suspected abuse and lied to the grand jury investigating Sandusky. The pending charges raise the prospect that investigators under the attorney general’s office may be continuing to look into that matter, which commonly occurs after charges are filed and before trial.
GENARO C. ARMAS
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